Educational Assistant

Educational assistants support students as part of a multidisciplinary team with teachers and other support personnel to provide meaningful instruction. Educational assistants also help teachers with non-instructional tasks.

Also Known As:Instructional Assistant, Program Aide/Assistant, Special Needs Educational Assistant, Teacher Aide, Teacher Assistant
NOC Number(s):6472
Minimum Education:1 year post-secondary education/training
Employment Outlook:Job openings generated due to employment turnover. Occupational outlook currently unavailable.
Interests:S M i

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Educational Assistant

Duties | Working Conditions | Personal Characteristics | Education | Employment | Salary | Other Information | Related Occupations | Related School Subjects | Related Field of Study


Educational assistants are employed by early intervention programs, schools, summer camps, child care centres and other educational organizations to provide learning support to students and general support to teachers and other professionals. In a school setting, educational assistants may:

  • work under the supervision of one or several teachers
  • work with students who have special needs 
  • work with individual students or groups of students both in the classroom and other settings
  • work as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • supervise students in structured (classroom) and unstructured (hallways, recess, lunch hour) settings
  • assist with preparing materials and clerical tasks as required.

Specific duties vary from one position to another but, in general, under the direction of a teacher, educational assistants:

  • provide support for all students to be included in the classroom and school
  • implement lesson and behavioural plans for students as directed by the teacher 
  • motivate and encourage students to participate in learning activities
  • use effective instructional strategies to help students with lessons and assignments
  • demonstrate activities, set up and dismantle displays, play spaces and work spaces
  • observe and report student behaviour and progress
  • assist students who have physical and personal care needs
  • facilitate and encourage positive student behaviours 
  • administer oral tests or act as a scribe for students
  • collect and prepare learning materials and use assistive technology to support student learning
  • assist with schoolwide special events and activities
  • may supervise children during lunch and recess breaks or field trips
  • support students to develop healthy relationships at school.

Working Conditions

Educational assistants work indoors except when supervising students outdoors or going on field trips. They routinely may be required to lift items weighing up to 10 kilograms. Sometimes, heavier lifting may be required (for example, to help students move in and out of wheelchairs).

Educational assistants employed in school systems usually have the same holiday schedule as teachers including summer, winter and spring breaks. However, most work on a contract basis and therefore are not paid during the summer months. Some school districts do pay over the 12 month period and provide benefits for employees in permanent positions. Hours of work may include some after school hours to attend staff or committee meetings. 

Educational assistants employed in the private sector may be employed the full calendar year.

Personal Characteristics

Educational assistants need the following characteristics:

  • good health and physical fitness
  • the ability to deal with the emotional and mental stress of working with a student or groups of students who are often active and demanding
  • the ability to interact with students and staff in a tactful, empathetic manner
  • competent speaking and writing skills
  • the ability to take direction and work independently and effectively in a team environment
  • keen observation skills
  • the ability to keep student information confidential
  • a positive attitude
  • flexibility, patience, sensitivity, tolerance, enthusiasm, creativity and imagination
  • a strong commitment to the development, progress and inclusion of students with special needs in education.

They should enjoy working with people (especially students who have physical, emotional or behavioural disabilities), having clear expectations and guidelines for their work, and finding innovative ways to handle situations. Creativity is essential as educational assistants may need to search for and implement strategies that match a student's interests and learning styles.

Educational Requirements

Employers generally prefer to hire educational assistants who have a high school diploma and related post-secondary education. A first aid certificate, criminal record check and Child Intervention Record System check also may be required. Related experience is a definite asset.

In Alberta, educational or teacher assistant training programs are offered at the following post-secondary institutions:

  • Bow Valley College in Calgary offers a 34 week Education Assistant certificate program. Entrance requirements include English Language Arts 30-1 or 65 per cent in English Language Arts 30-2 or equivalent.
  • Columbia College, a private vocational school in Calgary, offers a 25 week Educational Assistant Certificate program and a 25 week Human Services Professional diploma program. The entrance requirement for the certificate program is a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 or at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-2, or equivalent. Contact the school for the specific entrance requirements for the diploma program.   
  • Grande Prairie Regional College offers a one year (9.5 months) Teacher Assistant certificate program. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 (or 60 per cent in ELA 30-2), or equivalent. Applicants also must have a current CPR certificate (Basic Rescuer) and Standard First Aid Certificate. Students can take this program on a full-time or part-time basis. Some courses are offered on-line.
  • Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton offers a 10 month Special Needs Educational Assistant certificate program that is also available on a part-time evening basis and by distance delivery. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent with at least 65 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, 75 per cent in English Language Arts 30-2 or completion of the Skills Appraisal test. Keyano College in Fort McMurray offers a one year (10 months) Educational Assistant certificate program that may be taken full-time, part-time or online. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 (or 65 per cent in ELA 30-2), or equivalent.
  • Lakeland College in Vermilion (or part-time in Sherwood Park/Strathcona County) offers a one year Educational Assistant certificate program. Entrance requirements include English Language Arts 30-1 (or 65 per cent in ELA 30-2) and Grade 11 math.
  • Lethbridge College offers a two year Special Needs Educational Assistant diploma program. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with at least 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2, or equivalent. 
  • Medicine Hat College offers a one year Education Assistant certificate program in Brooks and Medicine Hat. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with a Grade 12 English or equivalent. Some courses are offered on-line.
  • Mount Royal University in Calgary offers a 10 month (full-time) Education Assistant certificate through Continuing Education. An application and a criminal background check are required. Entrance requirements include a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2 or equivalent. 
  • Northern Lakes College offers a 10 month Educational Assistant Certificate of Program Completion that may be taken full-time or part-time, in various locations using software like Moodle. Entrance requirements include English Language Arts 30-1 (or 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-2) and credit in Math 10C or 10-3 or equivalent.
  • Portage College in Lac La Biche offers a 52 week certificate and a 52 week diploma Educational Assistant program. The entrance requirement for the certificate program is Grade 12 or equivalent with English Language Arts 30-1 or 30-2 or equivalent and Pure or Applied Math 10 (or Math 10c or 10-3). Also required is a criminal record check. The entrance requirement for the diploma program is completion of the Educational Assistant certificate program or program coordinator approval.
  • Red Deer College offers a one year (non-distance) and a two and a half year (distance) Educational Assistant certificate program. The entrance requirement is a high school diploma with English Language Arts 30-1 (or 65 per cent in ELA 30-2), or equivalent.

Continuing education programs may be offered on an as needed basis.

For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.

Section revised July 2013

Employment and Advancement

Educational assistants may work full time or part time in:

  • early intervention programs
  • Kindergarten to Grade 12 public, separate and private schools
  • after school programs
  • post-secondary institutions 
  • child care centres
  • summer camps and day programs
  • home schooling environments
  • parent link, native liaison or other social services in which educational programming is offered.

Advancement requires further education. 

Educational assistants are part of the larger National Occupational Classification 6472: Elementary and Secondary School Teachers Assistants. In Alberta, 98 per cent of people employed in this classification work in the Educational Services industry.

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the Educational Services industry)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Section revised November 2013


Salaries for educational assistant positions vary widely throughout the province.

According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Elementary and Secondary School Teacher Assistants occupational group earned on average from $15.50 to $19.58 an hour. The mean wage for this group was $17.69 an hour.

For more detailed information, see WAGEinfo.

Other Sources of Information

Post-secondary institution calendars and websites (see Educational Requirements above)

EDinfo website:

Related Occupational Profiles
Child and Youth Care Worker
Community Disability Services Practitioner
Early Childhood Educator
Elementary School Teacher
Occupational Therapist Assistant
Speech-Language Assistant

Related High School Subjects
English Language Arts; and Health, Recreation and Human Services (Community Care Services)

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
Education and Library Studies

Produced February 2012
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For more information on career planning, occupations and educational programs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website at, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

The information contained in this profile was current as of the dates shown. Salaries, employment outlook and educational programs may change. Please check the information before making any career decisions.

Government of Alberta, Human Services